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Sports News of Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Source: Reuters

Ghana Pip Japan 1-0

YOKOHAMA, Oct 4 - New Ghana coach Claude LeRoy celebrated his first match in charge with a 1-0 win over Japan in a friendly international at Yokohama International Stadium.

The match before a crowd of 52,437, held in the venue for the 2002 World Cup final, turned out to be the biggest lesson yet for Japan, which was exposed in all facets of the game by an athletic Ghana team.

The Black Stars, who only arrived Monday for the match, appeared to be in excellent physical condition despite their long trip, not giving the Japanese an inch.

Haminu Dramani, who replaced Asamoah Gyan with only 17 minutes left to play connected a cross from another substitute, Razak Pimpong to ensure the Stars started their four-day Asian tour in style.

The Japanese playing in front of a packed stadium started the game well with occasional threats that left the Ghanaian defence vulnerable at some times.

However, Ghana were rarely troubled and had several chances to take the lead in the first half through Asamoah Gyan, Stephen Appiah and Essien.

Five minutes after kickoff, Asamoah Gyan embarrassed defender Hiroki Mizumoto, the Udinese forward turning on the 21-year-old before blasting a free shot high over the bar.

In the 22nd minute, Nottingham Forest man Junior Agogo robbed a Japanaese midfielder at the back to set up Gyan for another chance. But Gyan again came up short, shooting straight at the hands of goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

Japan debutant Satoru Yamagishi hit the post with a lucky shot off his knee just before the hour.

Germany-based Sarpie who returned to the first team as a result of John Paintsil's injury was forced to scoop a goal bound shot off the line after goalkeeper Richard Kingston was left stranded in the post. Both teams struggled for the opener in the first half, which proved elusive.

The closest the host came to scoring was on 69 minutes when Alex Santos sent a deceptive shot that forced Kingston to retreat, diving to his elastic limit to keep the Ghanaians in the game.

The Black stars got their reward with 17 minutes remaining after Razak Pimpong worked well on the right before sending in a low cross that Haminu crashed home at the near post.

Ghana proved to be a strong team as expected," said Japan coach Ivica Osim, a 65-year-old Bosnian who took over the team from Brazilian legend Zico after Germany 2006.

"Japan played better in terms of details. It is disappointing that we lost the match this way," he added.

Ghana coach Claude Le Roy believed the result could have gone either way.

"It was a finely balanced game and what it only lacked was more goals," the Frenchman said. "We had two good chances and wanted more goals but they didn't come.

"I anticipated intelligence from an Osim side and it was just luck that we got the goal."

The Black Stars, who lifted a giant trophy after the match, move on to play South Korea in another friendly on 8 October

The Stars, taking advantage of a break in the European leagues as a result of EURO 2008 qualifiers, enjoyed a splendid game with new coach Claude Le Roy observing from the sidelines.

GHANA: Kingson, Sarpei, Mensah, Iliasu, Mohammed, Essien, Appiah, Muntari (Draman 68), Kingston, Gyan (Pimpong 68), Agogo

JAPAN: Kawaguchi, Santos (Futagawa 86), Komano, Mizumoto, Endo (Nakamura 75), Suzuki (Hasebe 79), Abe, Konno, Yamagishi (Bando 68), Maki (Ganaha 72), Sato (Hanyu 63)